Dogs 4 jobs use with young dogs in the tray

Interview with Mel Martin from Dogs4Jobs (Penny’s foster mum)

In April (ish) 2021, Rustie got promoted to the advanced class at dog school, and I was casually perusing the dogs4jobs website, just checking out the dogs that needed homes.

Up popped this image of a cheeky little face with semi floppy ears that resembled a gangly version of a beagle.

I immediately showed Chad the photo who passed it off like he did all the other images of dogs I liked. I shrugged it off and went to work… maybe now was not the time to get another dog anyway. I spent the day trying to get those puppy dog eyes with black eyeliner and droopy ears out of my head.

The next day I spoke to Chad on the phone in my lunch break as I normally did, before we hung up, he quickly asked me… “has that beagle like dog been adopted yet?” Little did I know that he too had struggled to get that image of her out of his head. I pretended I was far too busy to contact the website and would do it tomorrow. Of course, I made my next patient late while I filled out the application form and hoped for the best.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that after speaking to Mel on the phone a few times, we knew Payton (now Penny) was going to be the new pup in our home and we hatched a plan to get her up to Lennox Head without plonking her on a plane.

I connected with Mel instantly, we talked a lot about our mutual obsession with dog training, dog photography and canines in general, and we formed a messenger group so that I could keep her updated with Penny’s progress.

Eighteen months on and I still send her photos of Penny’s antics and I finally got to meet her in person when I was in Canberra. Mel is a wonderful human who works tirelessly to help dogs in need. Not only to give them somewhere to stay, but also to help train them to be better equipped to cope out in the world.

In this interview, Mel talks about how Penny was her favourite, what it’s like to be a foster carer and how it can be difficult being a dog in our modern society without proper guidance.

Hi Mel, so you were Penny’s foster mum before I adopted her. Was Penny the most beautiful and best dog that you have ever looked after?

I mean, OBVIOUSLY! Actually, she and her sister Paprika truly were a dream to foster. They were so easy and fun. I had 6 dogs at the time, and I think it’s still my favourite little pack as a whole. Everyone got along super well, and had a great time, and I never had to manage their interactions… though Penny and Paprika were quite rough together, as siblings often are at that age, and it was a good time for them to get split up.

Apart from Penny, has there ever been a dog that you regretted giving away because you wished you could have kept them for yourself?

Yep, Crumbs. He destroyed more of my stuff than any other foster dog I’ve had, but he was the nicest, funniest dog I’ve ever fostered. He had so much personality and a great sense of humour, and got along with both of my dogs, which is almost unheard of. He was my favourite foster dog of all times, and I really regret letting him go.

Three of Mel’s dogs and a visitor

How long have you been fostering, what made you decide to do it, and why Dogs4Jobs in particular?

I’ve been fostering for 8 years. It started off as a way to help socialise my dog with other dogs safely, as he needs slow introductions… and once you start it’s hard to stop, because the stream of dogs in need never, ever ends. 

I’ve fostered for a few groups, and ended up with Dogs4Jobs because I love working breeds, and understand them the best.

What are the main reasons that dogs end up being rehomed and ultimately in yours or other foster carers homes?

The list of reasons is endless. Behaviour is a big one, where people aren’t able or willing to deal with it. This is especially true for dogs that hit adolescence and start pushing the boundaries. So many pound dogs are 1 to 2 years old, just when these behaviours tend to happen. Then there are unclaimed strays; people getting a puppy, and realising it’s too much for them; accidental litters; accommodation issues; people’s circumstances changing so they no longer can give the dog what it needs; failed workers who need a pet home; hoarding-type situations where people are in over their heads; the list goes on and on.

Bug, on an up ear day

Mel is a foster mum for dogs in need at

Photo by Rustie and Co

You probably get asked this all the time, but how do you cope with giving your dogs away to their new families?

The first couple of dogs are the hardest, for sure. And then some are harder than others, because you really click with them. But you really do get used to it. I’m always of the mindset that the dog is only with me temporarily, so keeping them doesn’t even come up as an option in my head. Plus there is always a long line of dogs waiting to come into care, so finding one a home means you can save another. And my personal favourite trick is to constantly take on too much, so that I’m always a little bit relieved when one leaves! 

You have experience with looking after puppies from birth. What was that like? It looks like it would be a lot of hard work but rewarding at the same time.

I’ve only had one litter born here – the mum came from the pound already pregnant, which was a surprise at the time. It was so great and also a huge time-waster! They hardly do anything the first few weeks, and yet I spent hours just looking at them and taking far too many photos. Obviously, I was sure they would die at any moment from a variety of far-fetched reasons! But I was lucky that mum was wonderful and took great care of them without hassles. To watch them grow from blind furry slugs into mischievous terrors was fantastic. 

Penny – adopted from dogs4jobs.

Do you have a favourite breed?

Kelpies, hands down. Obviously, every dog is an individual, but, as a whole, kelpies have a fantastic temperament, they’re generally good with dogs and people, they LOVE to train and work but also to have fun, and they keep you on your toes at all times. 

I’m not sure I should admit to this, but I also love cavoodles. Oh and I’d love to have a chihuahua one day!

Your garden looks absolutely amazing and a total heaven on earth for dogs from what I have seen from your videos on your Instagram @halfway_hound. Do you have good neighbours? Have they ever complained about barking?

My garden has evolved over time to suit the foster dogs! I basically structure my whole life around the fostering – it has determined the car I drive, the jobs I take and pretty much every aspect of my life. My neighbours know what I do, and they know that when I do get a barker, it will be temporary. But in any case, I try really hard to make sure my fostering doesn’t affect them and to minimise barking and other disruptions. There is less barking coming from my house than from 2 of my neighbours, actually.

Do you have any tips for making your garden more stimulating for your dog?

My dogs’ favourite is the ‘racetrack’. It’s a big circle that used to go around the pool, and now just goes around the agility space since I removed the pool. It’s apparently the best for zoomies and chasies. For small puppies, their favourite is a little tunnel that plants have created. They love to hide in there and pounce on each other. We also have a huge sandpit for digging. I made an A-frame with a couple of old doors and hinges from the tip, and they love to climb on that to see what’s going on in the reserve at the back. I bring out a shell pool for those that love water and I made a spring pole for those that love to tug. There are so many ways to make a garden enriching. You can also play a food hunt, by hiding food around the yard for them to sniff out, or make leaf piles in autumn, or give them things to climb on or run through.

What is your best piece of advice for anyone thinking about getting a dog for the first time.

There are so many things people need to think about, like making the right choice of breed, what temperament will suit their lifestyle, what they want the dog for, the diet they’re going to feed them. But apart from that, if you’re not experienced, the best investment you can make getting your first dog is get a good trainer in for a private consultation to help you settle the dog in as soon as the dog arrives.

Not really advice, but what I wish for, is for people to seek to understand their dogs better in every way – physical needs, emotional needs, biological fulfilment needs, communication and body language, and the potential reasons for misbehaviour. We ask so much of our dogs. They have to fit into this world of ours, do things and go to places that overwhelm them, love people, love dogs, spend time alone at home for hours and still be settled when we want them to be. And they’re expected to be well behaved all the times, often without anyone having taught them what that is and how to do it. 

What do you look for in an adopter?

I look for a good match for the dog. It varies according to each dog’s needs – some need a job, some need a quiet lifestyle, some wouldn’t cope in suburbia while others can’t go rural because of their prey drive. That means you sometimes have to say no to fantastic homes, not because they wouldn’t be a good home, but because they’re just not the right home for this particular dog. Some people can get pretty upset about that – they don’t understand it’s for their own good just as much as the dog’s.

In terms of the things I look for that are common for all my foster dogs, the main thing is that the dog will be part of the family and included in their humans’ lives, and that the adopters will make sure the dog has a fulfilling life – whatever that is for each dog.

In your opinion, what is the greatest misconception and prejudice people have about dogs that come from foster homes or animal shelters?

I think a lot of people think rescue dogs will be broken or need more work than dogs from breeders. Of course some have issues to iron out, but many are just nice dogs who need to learn a few things. The fact is that all dogs – regardless of where they come from – need a significant investment in time and training,.

I’m not at all an ‘adopt don’t shop’ advocate. I have no issue with people getting their dogs from a GOOD breeder who breeds for good health and temperament, and who gives puppies the best start through positive exposure to all sorts of things before they even leave. These are not the dogs we end up collecting from the pound.

But if you get your puppy from a puppy farm, where dogs are bred simply for looks with no regard for temperament, no health testing, no socialisation of any kind, where mum is genetically fearful and stressed during pregnancy and whelping, where pups spend their first 8 weeks in a pen with little human interaction or socialisation of any kind, you’re going to have your work cut out for you, and your dog might always be fearful no matter how hard you try.

People often assume that fearfulness is because dogs have been mistreated, but more often than not, it’s simply bad genetics or a lack of positive exposure when they were puppies, or both.

Why do you love dogs so much? Have you ever met a dog you didn’t like?

Dogs are such amazing creatures. They’re always ready to party – whatever you’re offering, they want to be part of it. They live in the moment. They never worry about the past or the future. How many times have people told me I should keep a foster dog because it’s too attached to me or one of my dogs. But the fact is, that dog had an owner before, and loved them as much as they love me. And they’ll love their forever owner just as much, too.

There have been fosters I didn’t bond with for sure and couldn’t wait to find them a home. There is always something lovable about dogs, but it doesn’t mean you fall in love with every one of them. But while those dogs weren’t a good match for me, they’re a good match for their forever home. That’s why finding the perfect match for each individual dog is so critical.  

Do you think Bug’s ears will ever stay up or is he destined to be a halfway ear hound forever?

I think he is planning on torturing me forever by continuing to change his ears daily and never settling on one look. I’ll love him either way. But if he asks, tell him I’ll love him a little more if he could settle on one up and one down.

That was such a great interview and I’m very grateful to Mel for spending the time answering those questions. I can’t say I didn’t shed a tear reflecting on how difficult it can be for some of our canine friends, trying to fit into our world.

Thanks Mel.

Find out more about more about fostering or even adopting a dog through

You can reach Mel at @halfway_hounds on instagram as well as checking out some of her fantastic dog photography of her foster pups over the years. Mel is a master at the group shot!

3 Replies to “Interview with Mel Martin from Dogs4Jobs (Penny’s foster mum)”

  1. The world is a better place because of people like Mel and Pennys world goes round because of Chad and Emma 🌸

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